And You Will Know It’s Fall…
The run kicks off Sept. 12 at Warehouse in Houston, Texas, and will see the band visiting A-list venues like 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. (Sept. 16), New York City’s Webster Hall (Sept. 18), Grog Shop in Cleveland (Sept. 24), Casbah in San Diego (Oct. 9) and Neumos’ in Seattle (Oct. 13).
Joining the band on the first half of the tour are fellow Texans Secret Machines, with Future of The Left stepping in for the second leg.
Self, which was released in February, is Trail of Dead’s sixth album. The project has drawn praise from critics in all quarters, including Fader, which proclaimed it “something so well-crafted that it seems like it’s existed for a thousand years.”
Frontman Conrad Keely told Pollstar the album was recorded a little differently than the band’s last couple of releases.
“We did our first three records tracking live,” Keely explained. “But the last two, we were trying to do a lot of experimenting with sampling. So we had to do things to click tracks in order to get them to synch up to what we wanted to place on them.
“When it came to this album, I had developed – who knows maybe even pioneered – a new method where I would actually create a click track to go along with the basic track. So there was no need for separate click tracks, I could synch up samples along to what I’d done or what we’d tracked live.
“These were all methods and experiments we tried out in the studio to explore the potential of the new digital world that’s being opened up to us.”
Keely also said Self was recorded with touring in mind, something the band wanted to focus on after 2006’s So Divided, which posed some challenges when translating it for the stage.
“What made it hard to play the last album live was it was deliberately meant to be a studio record,” Keely explained. “It wasn’t supposed to be a live record. It was a very studio written album. When it came to playing those songs live, it was a challenge.
“This album, I think we had the intention for it to have songs that were going to be, well, basically fun to play live – songs we would enjoy playing live. That was the intent.”
Keely said something interesting happened when the band was beginning to think about working on Self: He found himself composing a tune on the road, something he almost never does.
“I tend to be more of the home studio type writer. Although on this album there is actually one song that I wrote on the road. It’s the first song that I ever wrote on tour – ‘Fields of Coal.’
“It’s very difficult to write on tour. You don’t have many opportunities and you’re usually exhausted. So to be able to write a song on tour was pretty exciting to me. I was actually on the bus during a festival and Sonic Youth were playing.”
When I asked if Sonic Youth was the inspiration for ‘Fields of Coal,’ Keely told me kind of.
“I wasn’t necessarily inspired by the fact that they were playing. But I was inspired by how upset I was that we had to play at the same time that they were playing. I wanted to see them for one. And I didn’t want to play a bad show because they were playing at the same time.
“So I was kind of like feeling a little frustrated by this scheduling inadequacy – what I saw as a failure on the festival’s part to schedule us appropriately. I guess I was thinking about performance, because that’s kind of what the song ended up being about.”
One of the stops on Trail of Dead’s upcoming tour is the Austin City Limits Music Festival in their hometown. Keely said there’s a definite challenge to playing at an event much larger than the smaller settings the band normally plays.
“There’s a lot of loss of intimacy,” he said. “But you have to try to make it work. It’s a big difference. And also the sound – festival sound is horrible. It’s atrocious. But that doesn’t mean you can’t also have fun at a festival.
“Really that’s the challenge for me playing live, to enjoy myself and to remember what it is about being in a band that I really love and enjoy playing with my bandmates.
“I guess the reason that becomes harder on a bigger stage is there’s a loss of not just intimacy with the audience, but intimacy with your own group because you’re kind of spread out. We kind of fight that by doing what we call ‘battle formation,’ where we tell the stagehands that we’re going to set up really close to one another.”
Although Keely and his bandmates spend a great deal of time each year on tour, the singer says it’s not where he’d rather be.
“The road is difficult for numerous reasons like physical and emotional strain. But mostly it’s just the time it takes from what I would really want to do more, which is composing and doing more art. That’s the thing you really have to sacrifice by being on the road. You’re not going to have that time to develop artistically.”